Apr 032014
 

I was pretty well-amused by this funny column: 10 Things to Never Say to Women Who Don’t Want Kids. Here’s the one that I’ve heard most often:

7. “You’ll change your mind.”

Maybe I will change my mind about having kids, but I’ll never change my mind about you being tacky as hell. If you find yourself about to say this to a childless woman, please punch yourself in the face and then go home and watch Gigli five times as punishment.

It’s wildly rude to second-guess people’s life-choices in this way… and just imagine the uproar if childless people said that — or worse: “you’ll regret that someday” — to people with kids.

Here’s my basic perspective on the decision to have kids or not:

Because Paul and I chose not to have kids, I’ve been able to do tons of awesome things that wouldn’t be possible with kids, including graduate school, my career, and riding horses seriously. However… if we’d had kids, I’d be doing tons of different but still awesome things that are only possible with kids, like homeschooling or teaching my kids to ride horses.

“Should we have kids or not?” is major fork in the road of life. You might have a strong preference one way or the other, but please, recognize that not everyone feels the same way — and that life offers all kinds of fabulous joys, whichever path a person takes!

How Not to Advise a Disgruntled Teenager

 Posted by on 25 March 2014 at 2:00 pm  Ethics, Law, Parenting
Mar 252014
 

You remember that story of the teenager who sued her parents for support? Happily, the lawsuit was recently withdrawn, and she’s back at home. But here’s the kicker… her lawsuit was facilitated — and surely encouraged — by the father of a friend of hers.

“Canning had been living in Rockaway Township with the family of her best friend. The friend’s father, former Morris County Freeholder John Inglesino, was paying for the lawsuit.”

This father-of-a-friend deserves a bitchslap or two, particularly given that the girl has become such a public spectacle. What a mess.

Don’t Let the Kiddos Win Easy!

 Posted by on 20 January 2014 at 1:00 pm  Children, Competition, Ethics, Honesty, Parenting
Jan 202014
 

I hate the practice of allowing kids to win games, although I’ve never really considered the alternatives.

Two weeks ago, when Paul and I were in Los Angeles visiting his family, I played Connect Four with my five year old nephew, Jeremy, and I hit on a strategy that I really like.

Basically, I played all my best moves, but throughout the game, I gave him hints about his moves and strategy, as well as explained what I was doing and why. I enjoyed that, he enjoyed that, and he learned how to play better. That felt so much better — and more honest — than pretending to be slow and dumb.

As a result, I checkmated him in the first game, but then I lost the second game to him, because I got too excited about the move that I’d make next, and I forgot to block him. Doh!

Another option is to handicap games. That’s fair, since the adult knows so much more. The goal, after all, is to play an enjoyable and competitive game!

Good times!

Kid Shaming: Wrong, Wrong, and Wrong

 Posted by on 14 January 2014 at 10:00 am  Children, Ethics, Justice, Parenting
Jan 142014
 

Dog shaming is funny: it’s a harmless way for dog owners to amuse themselves (or blow off steam) about the naughty behavior of their dogs. It’s harmless because the dogs don’t know that they’re being publicly shamed and mocked. (They can’t read, after all.)

Kid shaming is another matter entirely. Here’s one example and here’s another. Such public shaming teaches the worst possible moral lessons — particularly that you can’t trust people who claim to love you and that life will be good so long as you conceal your mistakes and wrongs from the authorities. It’s a betrayal of a child’s trust in a parent, not to mention an unconscionable abuse of parental authority. To see how and why, read this article: Destroying Your Child’s Heart – One FB Picture At A Time.

Just imagine if your boss publicly shamed you at the office — or the whole wide world — for your mistakes and wrongs. Really, just imagine that for a moment. Think of your last screw-up, whether large or small. I bet that you’d learn one of the following lessons from the article, just like kids do:

  • Bully your kids and they will learn to fear you. As in be afraid of you. Cringing in your presence and hiding their lives from you.
  • Publicly shame your kids and they will learn the only important character development is to be found in a good public persona and the fool’s gold of value based solely upon outward perception and public approval
  • Mock your children as they struggle and they will learn to never share their struggles with you.
  • Share their weaknesses with the world and they will find the world to be cruel and will put you in the role of the cruelest of all.
  • They will think they are a joke, not to be taken seriously. Their pain the only commodity to sell.
  • They will treat you as you have treated them.

Parents, you can do better!

Jan 092014
 

Lately, I’ve gotten a slew of hits to this video from Philosophy in Action: Should a man unwilling to be a father have to pay child support? It’s now gotten nearly 5,000 views. Nice!

That’s awesome. Alas, awesome often comes paired with crazy, such as this comment:

Let’s think about this bit — “If a woman steals a mans seed without his consent, does she have a right to live?” — for a moment.

First, I’m pretty sure that a man voluntarily gives his “seed” to a woman in having sex with her. That’s rather the point, in fact.

Second, are we talking death penalty?!? Um, wow.

Finally, here’s a pro-tip: Don’t ever suggest up-front that your audience might think you a sociopath after reading your opinion. It might just prejudice them against you… just a bit.

Jan 072014
 

Recently, I ran across this list of 25 Manners Every Kid Should Know By Age 9. It’s not a great list in many ways, but some of the proposed rules are fine. Kids should learn to make polite requests, including saying “please” and “thank-you.” Obviously, that’s part of being a decent adult too.

However, I have a strong aversion to the rules designed just for kids, such as #3:

Do not interrupt grown-ups who are speaking with each other unless there is an emergency. They will notice you and respond when they are finished talking.

Really? Adults interrupt each other all the time. Can’t kids be taught those mores — or how to do that politely? Surely, this rule seems to imply that any conversation among adults, no matter how trivial, is more important than any concern of the child, except life-and-death. That’s not good!

Also, #6:

The world is not interested in what you dislike. Keep negative opinions to yourself, or between you and your friends, and out of earshot of adults.

Dislikes are important! Knowing what you dislike is part of knowing what you like. A kid who can introspect and explain his dislikes is going to be better equipped to pursue his values, both as a kid and as an adult. He will be able to assert himself, including against bullies and exploiters. Yes, dislikes can be expressed in rude or otherwise inappropriate ways. However, merely expressing dislikes is far from rude in and of itself. That’s why adults express dislikes routinely. (Alas, part of the problem here is that parents often don’t take the likes and dislikes of their children seriously.)

Oh, and #13:

Never use foul language in front of adults. Grown-ups already know all those words, and they find them boring and unpleasant.

To that, I will only say: Speak for yourself, jerkwad!

Obviously, I’m not opposed to all rules designed for kids. Kids aren’t just small adults, so any rules should consider their ignorance, lack of self-control, clumsiness, weakness, and other relevant facts. So definitely don’t let the two-year-old run around the house with the kitchen knives.

However, when teaching social graces, kids need practice at polite methods of accomplishing their aims. Simply demanding that kids never interrupt, keep silent about what they dislike, and never curse doesn’t do that. Such bans leave kids without guidance and without practice — and likely with some resentment of their parents for being hypocritical and oppressive. Parents, you can do better than that!

Embarrassed by Hollie McNish

 Posted by on 22 August 2013 at 10:00 am  Children, Culture, Parenting
Aug 222013
 

This is an amazingly powerful poem about the social shame imposed on women for public breastfeeding:

For what it’s worth, I answered a question about public breastfeeding on the 8 April 2012 episode of Philosophy in Action Radio. If you’ve not yet heard it, you can listen to or download the relevant segment of the podcast here:

For more details, check out the question’s archive page. The full episode – where I answered questions on cultivating good luck, public breastfeeding, national identification card, mulling over memories, and more – is available as a podcast too.

Mr. T for Mother’s Day

 Posted by on 12 May 2013 at 2:00 pm  Children, Funny, Parenting
May 122013
 

Mr. T explains how and why to treat your mother right:

Happy Mother’s Day!

Maternal Affection by Hugues Merle

 Posted by on 12 May 2013 at 10:00 am  Art, Children, Painting, Parenting
May 122013
 

Happy Mother’s Day!

Hugues Merle (French painter) 1823 – 1881
Maternal Affection, 1867
oil on canvas
39 3/4 x 32 in. (100.9 x 81.2 cm.)
signed Hugues Merle and dated 1867 (upper right)
private collection

Catalogue Note

After studying with Léon Cogniet, Hugues Merle became a regular contributor to the Salon between 1847 and 1880, up until the last year of his life, receiving medals for his entries in 1861 and 1863. His themes of maternal love found a ready audience with newly affluent art patrons in America. In fact, by 1878-9, in his Art Treasures of America, Edward Strahan could cite as many as 52 works by Merle in American collections. His reputation was equally great at home in France, where he enjoyed the patronage of the Duc de Morny and also enjoyed the support of Adolphe Goupil, the most prestigious art dealer in Paris whose other leading artists included William Bouguereau and Jean-Léon Gèrôme.

Merle was most often associated with his friend and rival, Bouguereau, not only because they depicted similar subjects but also employed a high finish and naturalistic technique. Merle was just two years older than Bouguereau, and their thematic and artistic similarities begged comparison from critics and collectors alike.

Apr 172013
 

Tonight, I’ll interview Eric Barnhill about Cognition, Movement, and Music. The topic is a bit obscure, but I’ve always been fascinated to hear Eric talk about his work. For me, this interview an excellent opportunity to have yet another interesting conversation… and you get to listen in!

Eric began his career as a Julliard-trained concert pianist, but now he’s a graduate student in medical physics in Scotland. Yes, that’s a bit of a strange path. Oddly, it’s been a path with a mostly steady trajectory, as you can see from his recent write-up for his alma matter. Here’s a bit:

During my time at Juilliard, I was introduced to an obscure field called Dalcroze Eurhythmics, which was developed by the Swiss composer and music theorist Emile Jaques-Dalcroze at the turn of the 20th century. In Dalcroze, movement is combined with vocal work and improvisation to create an alternative approach to teaching music. However, musical subjects are intermediate goals, used to develop attention, focus, coordination and physical performance via movement.

In Dalcroze I saw a methodology of unexplored potential that brought all my varied interests together. However, Dalcroze as a profession, to the extent that it exists at all, mostly consists of young children’s music and movement classes. To many colleagues, I had abandoned interpreting Schubert sonatas for sitting on a floor with 3-year-olds rolling balls around.

Early in my Dalcroze career I was reverse-commuting to a children’s music school in the suburbs (a rite of passage for many a Juilliard grad, in one form or another), where I frequently taught Dalcroze and piano to special-needs and learning-disabled children. I took them on as students because I had a blast teaching them.

However, I began to notice something interesting: The struggles they had executing musical patterns in movement seemed deeply connected to their core special-needs deficits. Similarly, to the extent that these students’ ability to execute rhythmic tasks improved, their core deficits seemed to temporarily recede. If I found a way to help a low-functioning girl keep a beat, she would then become just as present as anyone else. If I could tune up a boy’s ability to track measure, suddenly he would sit up and listen to an entire sentence. Stepping and skipping the rhythms of a nursery rhyme with these children would result in an afterglow of clear and expressive speech from them where none previously existed. This observation was the most exciting one I ever made. It has been the cornerstone on which I have built everything I have done professionally since.

You can read the rest here. Also, Eric gave a talk at TEDxBermuda — Empowering Through Rhythm — that’s an excellent teaser for tonight’s interview:

Fascinating, no? I hope that you join us for the interview!

Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha